According to a letter sent by House Republicans last week, cable television carrier DirecTV is on the verge of dropping conservative network Newsmax this week—essentially repeating the platform’s decision last year to boot pro-Trump channel One America News from its lineup.
While one GOP congressman told a right-wing news outlet that Newsmax would be removed from DirecTV by Tuesday night, several network insiders told The Daily Beast that they were unaware of any imminent departure from the service.
A DirecTV representative, meanwhile, told The Daily Beast that the network is currently seeking to charge way more money than the provider thinks is in the best interests of its customers.
The congressional letter could be a way to apply political pressure on Newsmax’s behalf.
Freshman Rep. Wesley Hunt (R-TX), who has been a regular guest on Newsmax, sent a letter on Friday to DirecTV and its corporate owners—AT&T and TPG Capital—that accused the satellite provider of “moving to de-platform Newsmax by denying it cable fees on a fair and equitable basis.” The letter was co-signed by 41 Republicans.
Citing the carrier’s cancellation of OAN last year, the letter further claimed that DirecTV is “actively working to limit conservative viewpoints on its system” while accusing the company of actively colluding with Democrats and the White House to “de-monetize” right-wing outlets.
The letter also recalled that some Democratic members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee asked providers in February 2021 whether they planned to “continue carrying Fox News, Newsmax, and OANN,” claiming the channels were “misinformation rumor mills and conspiracy theory hotbeds that produce content that leads to real harm.” (All three channels currently face billion-dollar defamation lawsuits from voting software companies for broadcasting debunked election fraud claims following the 2020 presidential election.)
“Given the jurisdiction of the Energy and Commerce Committee over your companies’ business interests, it is reasonable to assume you took this letter seriously and complied with these demands,” the Republicans noted, adding that DirecTV announced it was pulling OAN from its lineup in January 2021. The far-right network would later lose its carriage on other providers, including Verizon’s FIOS television service, OAN’s last major TV carrier.
“If Newsmax is removed from DIRECTV, in less than a year House Republicans will have lost two of the three cable news channels that reach conservative voters on a platform that primarily serves conservative-leaning areas of the country,” the letter added.
The GOP lawmakers also compared Newsmax to other “liberal” news channels such as Vice Media, claiming that the network receives more fees from DirecTV than Newsmax despite lower ratings. They also demanded that DirecTV provide Congress with television ratings and “corresponding fees paid by your company” for a number of listed networks.
In a statement to the Washington Examiner, Hunt claimed the apparent standoff over fees suggested “a political decision to censor conservative media, which is a red flag for the First Amendment” and “the latest development in the Left’s ongoing campaign to purge voices they disagree with from the public sphere.”
Calling Newsmax “one of the most watched cable news channels in America” and a “source of trusted information,” the Texas congressman said it would be “hard to accept” that DirecTV removing the network is a business decision when “liberal news channels like Vice Media continue to remain on the air.” He also groused that Vice, which he described as a “ratings failure,” continues “to profit from their relationship with DirecTV.”
Furthermore, Hunt told the Examiner that Newsmax would be removed from DirecTV’s lineup by 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday.
Not disputing Hunt’s claim that Newsmax’s deal expires Tuesday evening, a DirecTV rep did point out that the carrier has expressed interest in continuing its relationship with Newsmax, but the network is now asking for fees that the company doesn’t think are warranted.
Noting that DirecTV was one of the first distributors to offer Newsmax in 2014, the representative explained to The Daily Beast that Newsmax’s initial deal—which began when the channel was struggling mightily to attract viewers—deferred carriage fees to allow the channel the widest distribution possible. The expectation was that Newsmax would monetize its reach via advertisements.
Within the past couple of years, and especially after Newsmax experienced a brief ratings surge following the 2020 election, the channel began asking TV providers to change the model that included annual license fees. Some smaller carriers have already balked when it came time to renegotiate their contracts with Newsmax.
“While we worked in good faith to negotiate a new agreement, Newsmax insisted on unreasonable terms and conditions that would have resulted in increased TV fees for all Atlantic Broadband customers even though Newsmax is available for free for other viewers,” cable company Atlantic Broadband said in early 2022 after dropping Newsmax.
Additionally, the DirecTV rep pointed out that while Newsmax is now seeking license fees from cable carriers, the network makes the same identical content available for free on YouTube, its online app and website, and streaming providers like Roku and Amazon Fire TV.
Negotiations between both sides still remain active, the rep added.
Newsmax, meanwhile, provided the following statement when asked whether it was true that DirecTV was removing the network and if negotiations were ongoing with the provider.
“While we cannot comment on negotiations, we expect DirecTV, and its majority owner AT&T, to treat Newsmax on a fair and equitable basis in relation to all of the channels it carries, especially after both companies de-platformed OAN last year,” the network said.
Newsmax staffers, on the other hand, were caught off guard by the Republicans’ letter and Rep. Hunt’s announcement that the channel could soon get the boot from DirecTV, which currently serves nearly 14 million customers.
“I haven’t actually. I just read an article about it where I heard about the situation for the first time,” one network employee said, referencing the Examiner story.
Another on-air talent said they also weren’t aware of the network soon possibly losing its DirecTV platform, while another staffer noted that he’d only “heard there was some sort of deal in the works” but “honestly” didn’t know much.
An additional staffer, meanwhile, speculated that “it appears more editorial than financial” before adding that he didn’t know anything beyond that.
While both Hunt and Newsmax cited One America News being “de-platformed” as a reason for alarm amid apparent eleventh-hour negotiations with DirecTV, Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy didn’t seem bothered at the time when OAN was getting dropped from other carriers.
After Verizon canceled OAN last summer, Ruddy issued a celebratory statement announcing that his network had reached a multi-year deal with the provider, adding that “we are delighted to be extending our distribution through the Fios platform” and “found them to be outstanding partners.”